By Sandy Bahr, Chapter Director, Sierra Club – Grand Canyon Chapter
This year promises to be filled with challenges and opportunities. A key priority for Sierra Club will and must be to prevent environmental backsliding at both the federal and state level and to keep the state from further limiting the actions of local government relative to environmental protection.
Arizona is very lucky to have a multitude of public lands, roughly 28 million acres. These lands include six national forests, three national parks, eighteen national monuments, and nine wildlife refuges, as well as lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Our public lands provide important wildlife habitat, protect our watersheds, and give us ample opportunities for recreation, including hiking, backpacking, horseback riding, and more. They are important to our $20 billion tourism economy as well. Arizonans love our public lands, but unfortunately many in our congressional delegation and at the Arizona Legislature do not.
That is why we will be working overtime in 2018 to stop efforts to privatize or weaken protections for these lands, including preventing actions to remove national monument protections, efforts to rescind a ban on uranium mining on lands surrounding Grand Canyon and other actions to remove or weaken special designations and protective management.
Water is also a key priority this year and every year. We want to ensure that environmental flows are protected in our rivers and streams and prevent further weakening of the limited laws that keep water flowing and limit groundwater pumping. We also want to ensure that the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality does not weaken standards for surface water quality and that there continues to be strong protections for Outstanding Arizona Waters such as Fossil Creek, Davidson Canyon, and more.
Arizona must be a part of the timely transition from fossil fuels to clean renewable energy and energy efficiency in order to address climate change and put our state and our country on track. In fact, Arizona should be a leader. In 2018, there will be opportunities to promote clean energy as part of the utility resource plans at the Arizona Corporation Commission, in legislation, and possibly via a ballot measure. We will be working hard throughout the year to put the clean energy train back on track in our state.
Keeping the Endangered Species Act intact at the federal level and promoting stronger protections and recovery for species such as the Mexican gray wolf is also a top priority. We will be working to prevent Senator Flake from advancing legislation to erect roadblocks to wolf recovery and seeking to stop the multitude of bills aimed at weakening the Endangered Species Act, a key lifeline for many plants and animals. Also, relative to wildlife, Sierra Club strongly supports the proposed ballot measure to limit trophy hunting of mountain lions, bobcats, and other wild cat species. A lot of signatures are needed between now and July to ensure that it is on the ballot for the general election. We will be part of that effort.
Sierra Club and our partners are focused on keeping the Trump administration from erecting more walls along our southern border with Mexico and promoting more humane and rational borderlands policies. We must not let these hateful and environmentally destructive policies advance in 2018.
Our work to support tribal nations and protect Oak Flat, the Santa Ritas, and other sacred and sensitive areas threatened by ill-conceived mining projects will also continue in 2018. There will be environmental reviews and litigation and a concerted effort to protect these lands from foreign mining giants.
As if all of that were not enough, we are extremely concerned about backsliding on air quality for our state. Lately, Phoenix has experienced some of the worst air quality of the year. Rather than take additional measures to ensure that we all have healthy air to breathe, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) is supporting two bills sponsored by Senator Flake that will weaken the Clean Air Act and allow for more exemptions related to “exceptional events,” which frequently means the regular drought conditions we experience. Our lungs are not “exceptional” and should be protected from pollution as mandated by the health-based standards of the Clean Air Act.
That is a lot for 2018 and there will likely be more as well. We are up for the challenges and know that you are too. Our air, water, lands, wildlife, and certainly our health, are too important not to double down on our opposition to bad policies and the politicians who promote them.
Take action to support Clean Energy! https://www.addup.org/campaigns/tell-arizona-utilities-to-value-a-clean-energy-future
Keep the Grand Canyon uranium mining ban in place! https://www.addup.org/campaigns/protect-the-grand-canyon-from-uranium-mining/
Sign up to participate in Environmental Day at the Arizona Capitol on February 7. https://sierra.secure.force.com/events/details?formcampaignid=7010Z000001OxqWQAS or you can use this shorter bitly link http://bit.ly/2iqRp9D
Sign up for Sierra Club weekly legislative updates! https://vault.sierraclub.org/email/signup.asp?PC=GCLEGISLATIVE&PS=70131000001hRELAA2&ET=Arizona%20Legislative%20Update
Sandy Bahr is the Chapter Director, Sierra Club – Grand Canyon Chapter, and advocate for clean air, clean water, clean energy, our beautiful land, and its wildlife.